MuchSkills prioritisation framework: A guide to prioritising skills

This question is for managers or others who have been tasked with creating a skills taxonomy for a particular role, team or department in your organisation: Have you ever been to a restaurant and have frozen in indecision after reading their extensive menu?

If so, you are not alone. The human brain struggles to make a decision when faced with endless options. This is called decision paralysis. When faced with too much choice, the brain struggles to pick one because of the fear of making a wrong one.

This is the reason MuchSkills recommends that all leaders and managers who are creating a skills matrix or skills taxonomy for a role, department or team, prioritise the skills they put on the list. Often, we have seen that during this exercise leaders tend to include each and every skill they can think of – even those that are vaguely related to the role – and the list of skills runs into the hundreds. This information overload means that employees and managers feel overwhelmed when discussing and planning the development of the individual. 

To prevent this from happening, MuchSkills usually recommends that managers and leaders should use this question to help them focus while creating a skills matrix or taxonomy: “What are the most important skills to be successful in this role and do amazing work?”

To help you further, MuchSkills has come up with a framework in this playbook that you can use to prioritise the skills in your skills matrix or taxonomy. We have adapted it from the MoSCoW framework that is usually used in project management and product development.

The MuchSkills prioritisation framework

How to conduct employee one-on-one playbook

How to prioritise the skills listed in a skills matrix or skills taxonomy

While creating a skills matrix or skills taxonomy for a specific role, team or department, it is important to make the list focused and short so that employees can pick skills from them without any confusion while populating their skills profiles. Remember, the skills you pick should be critical to ensure the delivery and quality of work.

The MuchSkills prioritisation framework involves dividing your skills into the following three categories:

1. Must have: These are the most important skills required for this role, team or department. They are non-negotiable skills. In the absence of even one of these ‘must have’ skills, the person in this role/team/organisation will not be able to do their job.

Ask yourselves what are the skills that are integral for this role without which a person will be unable to perform the tasks assigned to them.

For example: Essential skills for Project Managers are communication, problem solving, critical thinking, time and risk management 

2. Should have: These are the skills that are important, but not vital. A person in this role without these skills won’t be able to perform 100% but will be able to function reasonably efficiently. Having said that, it is recommended that they pick up these skills asap. People with strong “must have” skills should pick up missing “should have” skills while on the job so that they have a more rounded profile.

For example: For a Project Manager, ‘should have’ skills can be the ability to do good research, develop strategies and objectives and emotional Intelligence.  

Here’s a tip for managers who are looking at the big picture in the organisation. If you have more than one project manager in the team, you may find it useful to think about how you can catch a variation in the role in the ‘should have’ skills category.  For instance, you could have one project manager who is good with social aspects and another who is good with detail orientation and process management. That is a good way of ensuring you have all the skills you need across the team.

3. Could Have: Wanted and desirable skills. But not as important as the first two. It will be great if these skills are present, but it is not a dealbreaker if they are not. Not having these skills will not have as big an impact on performance as ‘must have’ and ‘should have’. As always, it is desirable that people lacking in these skills, pick them up…. But it is not an urgent requirement.

For example: For a project manager this can be some technical tools that are only used in a few projects you have, or skills like creativity, business development and diligence.  

At the end of this exercise you should have a focused list of skills that are critical to ensuring the timely delivery and quality of work. 

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